Days of Wine and Sichels

You might want to open a bottle of wine as you read this post.

As I wrote last time, Caroline Seligmann (my 4x-great-aunt) and Moses Morreau had two children, Levi and Klara. This post will focus on Klara and her descendants.

Klara was born in Worrstadt on July 9, 1838:

Klara Morreau birth record, July 9 1838
Morreau birth records 1838-29

 

I have not had success in finding a marriage record for Klara, but I know from her death record and her son’s birth record that she married Adolph (sometimes Adolf) Sichel. I have neither a birth nor a death record for Adolph, but I do have a photograph of Adolph’s gravestone in Bingen, which identifies his birth date as April 10, 1834. [1]

Adolph Sichel was the son of Hermann Sichel and Mathilde Neustadt of Sprendlingen, later Mainz. Hermann Sichel was the founder of the renowned wine producing and trading business, H. Sichel Sohne. Although it is beyond the scope of my blog to delve too deeply into the story of the Sichel wine business, a little background helps to shed light on Adolph, Klara, and their descendants. According to several sources, Hermann Sichel started the family wine business with his sons in 1856 in Mainz, Germany.

In 1883, the company expanded to Bordeaux, France, where it established an office to procure wines for sales by Sichel in Mainz, London, and New York City. The sons and eventually the grandsons worked in various branches of the business, some working in the French office, some in London, and some in Mainz. The business continued to expand and is still in business today; it is perhaps best known in popular culture as the maker of Blue Nun, a wine that was quite successful in the 1970s and 1980s. One writer described it as “a single, perfectly positioned product, a Liebfraumilch whose blandness seemed just the ticket for the hundreds of thousands of new wine drinkers, not just in the US but also in the UK. “

Adolph was not one of the sons who relocated from Germany. He and Klara had two children born and raised in Germany. Their daughter Camilla Margaretha Sichel was born on February 4, 1864, in Sprendlingen, according to Nazi documentation:

Camilla Sichel married Jakob Blum, who was born April 3, 1853, in Nierstein, Germany. They had four children, all born in Mainz: Paul (1884), Willy (1886), Richard (1889), and Walter (1893):

Paul Blum birth record, September 7, 1884
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Willy Blum birth record
February 21, 1886
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Richard Blum birth record
June 8, 1889
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Walter Blum birth record
August 4, 1893
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Paul died as a young boy in 1890 and is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Mainz.

Paul Blum, Mainz Jewish Cemetery Courtesy of Camicalm Find A Grave Memorial# 176111502

Camilla Sichel Blum’s husband Jakob Blum died August 22, 1914; he was 61 years old:

Jakob Blum death record
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Deaths, 1876-1950 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950. Mainz Stadtarchiv.

He was buried in the Mainz Jewish cemetery where his young son Paul had also been buried:

Jakob Blum gravestone, Mainz Jewish Cemetery
Courtesy of Camicalm
Find A Grave Memorial# 177633476

His wife Camilla would survive him by almost thirrty years.

Adolph Sichel and Klara Morreau also had a son named Hermann. I found Hermann’s birth date and place, June 24, 1869, in Sprendlingen, in the Name Index of Jews Whose German Nationality Was Annulled by the Nazi Regime database on Ancestry, a horrifying but presumably reliable source, given the meticulousness with which the Nazis kept records on Jews:

Hermann Sichel in Ancestry.com. Germany, Index of Jews Whose German Nationality was Annulled by Nazi Regime, 1935-1944 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

On April 14, 1905, Hermann married Maria Franziska Trier, who was born on May 11, 1883, in Darmstadt, Germany, to Eugen Trier and Mathilde Neustadt. Maria was 21, and Hermann was 35.

Marriage record of Hermann Sichel and Maria Trier
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 901; Laufende Nummer: 98

Hermann and Maria had two sons, Walter Adolph (1906) and Ernst Otto (1907).

Camilla and Hermann’s father Adolph Sichel died on April 30, 1900, as seen above on his gravestone; Hermann’s older son Walter Adolph was obviously named at least in part for Adolph. Klara Morreau Sichel died on April 2, 1919. Adolph and Klara are buried in Bingen.

Klara Morreau Sichel death record, Apr 2, 1919
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Deaths, 1876-1950 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Personenstandsregister, Sterberegister, 1876-1950. Mainz Stadtarchiv.

Klara Morreau Sichel gravestone at Bingen Jewish cemetery
http://www.steinheim-institut.de/cgi-bin/epidat?id=bng-818&lang=de

The families of both Camilla Sichel Blum and Hermann Sichel remained in Germany until after Hitler came to power in 1933. Then they all left for either England or the United States.

Two of Camilla’s sons, Richard and Walter, ended up in the US. Walter arrived first—on April 27, 1939.

Walter Blum ship manifest 1939
Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6319; Line: 1; Page Number: 42
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6319
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line].

(Walter had actually visited the US many years before in 1921 when he was 27 years old; the ship manifest indicates that he was going to visit his “uncle” Albert Morreau in Cleveland. Albert was in fact his first cousin, once removed, his mother Klara Morreau’s first cousin.)

Walter Blum 1921 ship manifest
Ancestry.com. New Orleans, Passenger Lists, 1813-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2006.
Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.View all sources.

Richard arrived a few months after Walter on August 29, 1939, listing his brother Walter as the person he was going to:

Richard Blum 1939 ship manifest
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

On the 1940 census, both Richard and Walter were living in the Harper-Surf Hotel in Chicago. Richard was fifty, Walter 46. Both were unmarried and listed their occupations as liquor salesmen. Walter had changed his surname to Morrow, I assume to appear less German. It seems he chose a form of his grandmother Klara’s birth name, Morreau:

Richard Blum and Walter Morrow on 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Roll: T627_929; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 103-268
CHICAGO CITY WARD 5 (TRACT 613 – PART)
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]

Walter had his name legally changed to Morrow on February 7, 1944, in Chicago, according to this notation on his birth record:

Notation on Walter Blum’s birth record regarding his name change; Walter Blum birth record
August 4, 1893
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Both brothers registered for the World War II draft in 1942.  Richard was now living at the Hotel Aragon in Chicago and working for Geeting & Fromm, a Chicago wine importing business.

Richard Blum World War II draft registration
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration), for The State of Illinois; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M2097

Walter was still living at the Harper-Surf Hotel and working for Schenley Import Corporation, a liquor importing business.

Walter Blum Morrow draft registration World War II
The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration), for The State of Illinois; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Series Number: M2097

Both brothers also became naturalized citizens of the United States in 1944.

Richard died in 1961; his death notice reported that he was still a sales representative for Getting & Fromm at the time of his death.

Richard Blum death notice
July 9, 1961 Chicago Tribune, p. 71

Walter died on October 26, 1978, in Wiesbaden, German, according to a notation on his birth record; interestingly, he apparently had returned to live in Germany, as the US Social Security Death Index reported his last residence as Frankfurt, Germany.

Snip from Walter Blum Morrow’s birth record; Walter Blum birth record
August 4, 1893
Ancestry.com. Mainz, Germany, Birth Records, 1872-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Personenstandsregister Geburtenregister 1876-1900. Digital images. Stadtarchiv Mainz, Mainz, Germany.

Meanwhile, their older brother Willy, known as Wilhlem and then William, had immigrated to England. Although I don’t have any records showing when William left Germany, I believe that he must have been living in England before 1943, as his mother Camilla Sichel Blum died in York, England, in 1943 (England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2006).  William is listed as living in York on a 1956 UK passenger ship manifest for a ship departing from New York and sailing to Southampton, England. I assume that Camilla had been living in York with her oldest son, William, at the time of her death in 1943.

Willliam Blum 1956 ship manifest,
The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1364; Item: 65

That 1956 manifest reports that William was married, a wine merchant, living at 13 Maple Grove, Fulford Road, York, England, and a citizen and permanent resident of England. I also found him listed in several phone books at the same address from 1958 until 1964. Aside from that I have no records of his whereabouts or his family or his death. I don’t know whether he was involved in the Sichel wine business or a different wine company. I also don’t know whether he was married or had children. I have contacted the York library and have requested a search of the newspapers and other records there, so hope to have an update soon.

As for the sons of Hermann Sichel and Maria Trier, they appear to have remained more directly connected to the Sichel wine business than their Blum cousins. Walter Adolph Sichel, the older brother, was in charge of the British side of the Sichel import business.  According to an article from the January 31, 1986 edition of The (London) Guardian (p. 10), Walter first came to England in 1928:

Anti-German feeling still lingered when young Sichel came to Britain in 1928 and travelled the country with his case of sample bottles from the family firm, H. Sichel Sohne of Mainz. Youthful persistence apart, he was lucky to have with him some of “the vintage of the century,” 1921. Potential customers found his wines easy to like, but impossible to pronounce.

(“The nun in the blue habit with something to smile about,” The (London) Guardian, January 31, 1986, p. 10)

Walter had moved permanently to England by 1935, as he is listed in the London Electoral Register for that year; also, he gave a London address on a ship manifest dated January 16, 1935.

Walter Sichel, 1935 ship manifest,
Year: 1935; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5597; Line: 1; Page Number: 93
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 5597
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

In December 1936, Walter Sichel married Johanna Tuchler in Marylebone, England; Johanna (known as Thea) was born in 1913 in Berlin. (Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005)

Walter Sichel’s younger brother, Ernst Otto Sichel (generally known as Otto), immigrated to the US.. He first arrived for a four month visit in October 1936, entering the country in Buffalo; he listed agents of the Taylor Company as those he was coming to see, so I assume this was a business trip with the Taylor Wine Company in upstate New York.

Ernst Otto Sichel 1936 arrival in Buffalo, NY
The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Buffalo, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, New York, 1902-1954; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 – 2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: M1480; Roll Number: 127

But Otto returned to settle permanently in the US on September 30, 1937.

Otto Sichel 1937 ship manifest
Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6054; Line: 1; Page Number: 8
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

By May 1938, Hermann Sichel and Maria Trier, Otto and Walter Sichel’s parents, had also left Germany as they listed themselves as residing in London on a ship manifest when they traveled to New York on that date. In August 1939, Otto listed them on a ship manifest as residing in Buckinghamshire, England, when he sailed from New York to England at that time.

Hermann and Maria Sichel on 1938 ship manifest
Ancestry.com. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Outwards Passenger Lists. BT27. Records of the Commercial, Companies, Labour, Railways and Statistics Departments. Records of the Board of Trade and of successor and related bodies. The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England.

Otto Sichel 1939 ship manifest—address of parents in England
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Hermann Sichel died on August 22, 1940, in Buckinghamshire. He was 71 years old; his wife Maria died in London in June 1967; she was 84. (England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2006)

In 1940, their son Otto was listed on the US census as a paying guest in a home on East 84th Street in New York City. There was a notation on his entry that I’ve never seen before: “No response to this after many calls.” Was Otto avoiding the enumerator? Or was he just away on business?

Otto Sichel, 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2655; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 31-1339
Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

Perhaps this seeming evasiveness created some suspicion about Otto because in 1943 a request was sent by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service to the FBI to request clearance for Otto because he was “pro-German but anti-Hitler, and may be guilty of subversive activity.” I consider myself pro-American even when I do not like my country’s leaders or actions at certain times; I assume that that was how Otto felt—affection for the country of his birth, but opposed to its actions under the Nazis.

Inquiry into Otto Sichel
Ancestry.com. U.S. Subject Index to Correspondence and Case Files of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1903-1959 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010

Otto must have passed the FBI investigation because on August 15, 1944, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States:

Ernst Otto Sichel naturalization papers 1944
Ancestry.com. Selected U.S. Naturalization Records – Original Documents, 1790-1974 [

On January 3, 1942, Otto married Margarete Frances Chalon in Westwood, New Jersey; Margarete was born in New York in 1919; she was 22 when they married, and Otto was 34. The marriage did not last, and they were divorced in Florida in 1949. The following year Otto married again; his second wife was Anne Marie Mayer. She was born in Germany in 1921. Otto and Anne Marie eventually moved to Port Washington, New York.

Otto died on May 10, 1972, in San Francisco. He was 65 years old. According to his obituary, he was the vice-president of Fromm & Sichel, a subsidiary of Jos. E. Seagram & Sons, at the time of his death and had been working for that company for twenty years. “E. Otto Sichel Dies; Wine Expert Was 65,” The New York Times, May 13, 1972 (p. 34).

Without going into the full corporate history, there are obvious links here between the various Sichel/Blum cousins—Richard Blum worked for the Chicago wine distributor Geeting & Fromm, which was founded in part by Paul Fromm, whose brother Alfred Fromm and Franz Sichel, first cousin of Walter Sichel and Richard Blum, founded the company where Walter Sichel worked, the San Francisco wine distributor Fromm & Sichel .

Finally, to bring this story back to its beginning, both Walter Blum and Otto Sichel listed a Mr. I(saac) Heller (“Hella” as spelled on Walter’s manifest) as the person sponsoring them in the US when they immigrated to the US in the 1930s:

Walter Blum 1939 manifest naming I Hella as friend going to in US
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867

Isaac Heller named as person Otto Sichel was going to on 1937 manifest
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897. Microfilm Publication M237, 675 rolls. NAI: 6256867. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36. National Archives at Washington, D.C.

Who was this friend Isaac Heller?

He was the brother of Leanora Heller Morreau. Yes, the Leanora I had researched back in 2014 to try and understand why she had tried to rescue Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld from Nazi Germany.  The same Leanora whose husband Albert was the grandson of Caroline Seligmann Morreau and a first cousin of Camilla Sichel Blum, Walter’s mother, and Hermann Sichel, Otto’s father.

Leanora may not have been able to help her late husband’s cousin Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld, but obviously she and her brother Isaac were able to help Albert’s cousins Walter Blum and Otto Sichel.

And so I lift a glass of wine (not Blue Nun, preferably a prosecco) to toast Leanora Heller Morreau! L’chaim!

by tracy ducasse (Flickr: [1]) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

[1] Unfortunately, the online records for Sprendlingen do not cover the years before 1870, and although there are some death records for the 1900s, the year 1900 is not included.

The Morreau Family Discovered, With the Help of Many: Part I

As I wrote in my last post, it took the combined efforts of many people to put together the full picture of my Morreau cousins.  Without Wolfgang and the handwritten trees, Shyanne, Michael Phillips, Paul, Dorothee, and Friedemann Hofmann, I never would have been able to find all the names and dates. Dorothee provided the final and essential link to Friedemann Hofmann, who sent me images of the actual records and of the gravestones of the Morreau family, helping me to corroborate the factual assertions I’d seen on secondary sources. Many of the records and images in this post came from Friedemann. Thank you all again for your help!

The records establish that my four times-great-aunt Caroline Seligmann (1802-1876), sister of Moritz Seligmann and daughter of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, was married to Moses Morreau, son of Maximilian Morreau and Janette Nathan, on October 8, 1830.

Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau October 8, 1930
Wörrstadt Marriage Record, 1830-10

P. 2 of Marriage record of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau

Moses was born in Wörrstadt, Germany, on June 28, 1804.

Moses Morreau birth record, June 28, 1804
Wörrstadt birth records, 1804-34

Moses and Caroline settled in Wörrstadt, which is less than twelve miles from Gau-Algesheim where Caroline’s parents lived.

 

Moses and Caroline had two children, both of whom were born in Wörrstadt: Levi (Leopold), who was born September 25, 1831, and Klara, who was born July 9, 1838. This post will focus on Levi and his descendants; the one to follow will focus on Klara and her family.

Birth record of Levi Morreau
September 23, 1831
Wörrstadt birth records 1831-39

Levi married Emelia Levi. Emelia’s death record reveals that she was born in Alsheim, Germany, in 1836. Levi and Emelia had five children, all born in Wörrstadt where Levi was a merchant: Markus (1859), Albert (1861), Adolf (1863), Barbara (1867), and Camilla Alice (1874).

Markus Morreau birth record, August 27, 1859
 Wörrstadt birth records, 1859-36

Albert Morreau birth record, Aug 18, 1861
Wörrstadt birth records 1861-51

Adolf Morreau birth record, May 15 1863
Wörrstadt birth records 1863-21

Barbara Morreau birth record, April 11 1867
 Wörrstadt birth records 1867-27

Camilla Alice Morreau birth record, July 14 1874
Wörrstadt birth records 1874-39

Adolf died when he was nine years old in 1872.

Adolf Morreau death record, June 16, 1872
Wörrstadt death records 1872-29

Adolf Morreau gravestone

Levi’s mother Caroline Seligmann Morreau died in 1876, and his father Moses Morreau died the following year, both in Wörrstadt. Caroline was 74 when she died, and Moses was 72.

Caroline Seligmann Morreau death record, April 7, 1876
Wörrstadt death records 1876-13

Moses Morreau death record, March 9, 1877
Wörrstadt death records 1877-10

Carolina Seligmann Morreau gravestone

Moses Morreau gravestone

After their grandparents died, both Markus and Albert Morreau left Germany. By 1881, Markus Morreau, the oldest child of Levi and Emelia and oldest grandchild of Caroline and Moses Morreau, had moved to Withington, England, where he was living as a lodger. Markus became a naturalized citizen of England in 1892:

UK Naturalization Certificate for Markus Morreau
The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 19

By 1902, Markus married Alice Frederique Weinmann, who was born in 1880. They had three children: Rene (1902), Cecil (1905), and Madeline (1908). (England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915.)

Markus’ brother Albert also left Germany as a young man.  According to the biography of Albert Morreau in A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical (S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1910) by Samuel Peter Orth, after Albert finished school, he went to Frankfurt, where he worked as an apprentice for five years in a dry goods store. He then went to England, where he worked as an assistant correspondent in an export house. After two more years, he left for America and settled in Cleveland, where he worked as stock clerk and salesman for Landesman, Hirschheimer & Company for five years.

After being in the US for five years, Albert started his own business manufacturing gas lighting fixtures in 1887. In 1893, he married Lea Nora Heller in Cleveland, Ohio.

Marriage record of Albert Morreau and Leanora Heller
Cuyahoga County Archive; Cleveland, Ohio; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1810-1973; Volume: Vol 38-39; Page: 352; Year Range: 1892 Feb – 1893 Jul

Leanora, as I’ve written before, was born in Ohio in 1867. Her parents were also American born. Albert and Leanora had two sons, Myron (1895) and Lee (1898).

Meanwhile, Albert’s company, Morreau Gas Fixture Manufacturing, was expanding. It grew from a small three-person operation in 1887 to a company that employed over 150 people by 1910; the company was selling its products throughout the United States and was one of the largest businesses in Cleveland, according to Orth. The company did its own product design and had “a reputation for great excellence.” Orth, p. 844. Thus, Albert Morreau found great success in Cleveland.

Albert Morreau and Leanora Heller Morreau 1915  United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVJP-423K : 4 September 2015), Albert Morreau, 1915; citing Passport Application, Ohio, United States, source certificate #49162, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925, 234, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,514,173.

As for Albert’s two sisters back in Germany, Barbara/Bertha (generally known as Bertha) married Isidor Aschaffenburg in Wörrstadt on July 29, 1886.  She was nineteen, and he was 36. Isidor was a merchant and was born in Albersweiler, Germany, the son of Rabbi Hertz Aschaffenburg and Nanette Mayer, on December 4, 1849. Isidor and his parents were living in Cologne at the time of the marriage, and Bertha soon relocated to Cologne with her new husband.

Marriage record of Barbara Morreau and Isidor Aschaffenburg, July 29, 1886
Wörrstadt marriage records, 1886-16

Isidor and Bertha had two sons born in Cologne: Paul, who died before he was a year old while visiting Bertha’s parents in Wörrstadt, and Ernst, who was born July 15, 1890.

Death record and gravestone for Paul Aschaffenburg, July 27, 1889
Wörrstadt death records 1889-31

Sometime before 1897, Levi Morreau and his wife Emilia and their daughter Camilla Alice (generally known later as Alice) moved to Monchengladbach.  Monchengladbach is located north of Cologne and is about 140 miles from Wörrstadt. Since Bertha and Isidor were living in Cologne, I assume that Levi, Emilia, and Alice moved there to be closer to their daughter and surviving grandson sometime after their grandson Paul died in Wörrstadt in 1888.

Levi Morreau died in Mochengladbach on July 12, 1897:

Levi Morreau death record
Ancestry.com. Mönchengladbach, Germany, Death Records, 1798-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

On March 31, 1898, eight months after her father’s death, Alice, the youngest child of Levi and Emilia Morreau, married Otto Mastbaum, a doctor, in Monchengladbach.  Alice was 23, and Otto was 31.  Otto was born in Cologne on May 16, 1866, the son of David and Helene Mastbaum. Alice and Otto did not have children.

Marriage record of Alice Morreau and Otto Mastbaum
Ancestry.com. Mönchengladbach, Germany, Marriages, 1798-1933 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Emilia Levi Morreau died on July 5, 1913, in Monchengladbach; she was 77 years old.

Death record for Emilia Levi Morreau
Ancestry.com. Mönchengladbach, Germany, Death Records, 1798-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

Sadly, both Bertha and Alice were widowed at relatively young ages. Otto Mastbaum, Alice’s husband, died in 1919, according to sources in Cologne; he was fifty-three, and Alice was only 45. Bertha’s husband Isidor Aschaffenburg died on May 26, 1920; he was seventy, and Bertha was 53.

In addition, Bertha and Alice’s older brother Markus died in England on March 6, 1920, when he was only sixty years old. (England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2006 on Ancestry.com)

Alice and Bertha remained in Monchengladbach, Germany. They traveled together to the US on the SS Albert Ballen in April, 1924, to visit their brother Albert in Cleveland.

Bertha and Alice listed on ship manifest
Year: 1924; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3482; Line: 1; Page Number: 6

Apparently they also visited in 1925 and toured much of the United States.

Alice visited Albert again in 1932:

Year: 1932; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 5213; Line: 1; Page Number: 10

Albert died the following year on June 11, 1933; he was 71.

Albert Morreau obituary

His son Myron died just three years later on April 16, 1936. He was only 41 years old and had not married.

Myron’s first cousin Cecil Morreau, the son of Markus Morreau and Alice Weinmann, also died young; he died in England on March 2, 1939, just a month before his 34th birthday.

Burial record of Cecil Morreau
Ancestry.com. Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1987 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.
Original data: Anglican Parish Registers. Woking, Surrey, England: Surrey History Centre

Sometime after 1935 and before 1939, both Alice and Bertha as well as Bertha’s son Ernst Aschaffenburg escaped from Nazi Germany and moved to England. Bertha died not long after in December 1939; her son Ernst died on May 16, 1943; he was 53 years old. Alice died four years later on September 15, 1947; she was 73. (England & Wales, Death Index, 1916-2006 on Ancestry.com)

Thus, by 1947, all of the children of Levi Morreau and Emilia Levi had died as had four of their seven grandchildren. Only three grandchildren remained: Rene Morreau and Madeline Morreau, the surviving children of Markus Morreau and Alice Weinmann, and Lee Heller Morreau, the surviving son of Albert Morreau and Leanora Heller.

Lee died in 1962 when he was 63.

The only grandchildren of Levi Morreau and Emilia Levi who lived past seventy were Rene, who died in 1982 a few months shy of his 80th birthday, and Madeline, who somehow beat the odds in her family and lived to 88, dying in 1996.

Fortunately, despite the fact that so many of Levi Morreau and Emilia Levi’s grandchildren died at relatively young ages, there are living descendants. One of them is my cousin Shyanne, whose comment and research started me on this journey to learn about my Morreau relatives.

The next post will be about Klara Morreau, the daughter of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau.

 

 

Another Mystery Solved: Who was “Leonara Morreau”?

It still amazes me that people find my blog, leave a comment, and then lead me to answers to questions about my family’s history.  Just a month ago someone named Shyanne left a comment that led me to answers to another question I had been unable to resolve several years ago.

First, some background: Back in November 2014, I posted about a book I had received from Bernie Brettschneider of Gau-Algesheim, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden by Ludwig Hellriegel (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. It was my first source of detailed information about my Seligmann relatives, and I had struggled to translate as much as I can.

One of the entries in the book mentioned a woman named Leonara Morreau, as I wrote back then:

There is also an entry for Elizabeth nee Seligman Arnfeld, who was born March 17, 1875.  She had moved to Mulheim on the Ruhr in 1938 and wanted to emigrate to the United States.  A woman named Leonara Morreau[1] had vouched for them, but for unknown reasons they were never able to emigrate.  Elizabeth died on January 23, 1943 at Theresienstadt.  Her son Heinz survived the war.

Eventually, once my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann found me, I learned more about “Elizabeth” Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld and her family, as I wrote about here and here. But back in November, 2014, I had not yet found Wolfgang nor had I yet found Beate Goetz, and my knowledge of my Seligmann relatives in Germany was very, very limited.

Bettina (Elizabeth) Arnfeld nee Seligmann

But I had been curious about this woman “Leonara Morreau,” and had tried to figure out her connection to the Seligmanns. Why had she vouched for them? Why hadn’t she been able to save them? As I wrote back then:

I found Leonara Morreau’s obituary and researched her a bit, but know of no reason that she would have had a connection to the Seligmanns in Germany.  She was born, married, and lived in Cleveland.  Her husband died in 1933, and she died in 1947.  As far as I can tell, they never traveled to Germany.  Leonara’s brother was Isaac Heller, who was also born in Cleveland, as was their father, Charles Heller.  Although their grandfather was born in Germany, it was not even in the same region as the Seligmanns.  Perhaps Leonara was active in trying to bring German Jews to the United States during Hitler’s reign, but I can find no evidence of that.  Her obituary only states that she was active in charitable and religious causes.

Stolperstein for Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld

And that was as far as I got. I put it aside and continued to work on my Seligmann family.  Beate connected with me a few weeks after that post in November, 2014, and Wolfgang found me in February, 2015, and I was then on an amazing and exciting run of good luck with their help and the help of Wolfgang’s mother Annlis. Many if not most of the holes in the Seligmann family tree were filled with our collective efforts. But I never returned to the question of Leonara Morreau.

Until last month when Shyanne commented on my blog:

Leonara Morreau. Now, I’m unsure if there are multiples in the same family, but in my ancestry, my great great grandfather Albert Morreau was married to a Lea Nora Morreau, multiple docuuments spell it differently, though. But she too, was born an Heller. Here in the states. However, Albert was born in Germany, which is where the connection from Germany could be.

When I read Shyanne’s comment, I could barely remember the whole question of “Leonara” Morreau (whose name is generally spelled Leanora but sometimes Lenora or Lea Nora). After all it had been almost three years before and just a passing question in the overall search for information about my Seligmann family. But I was intrigued and emailed Shyanne right away.

After a flurry of emails, exchanges of information, and a review of the Seligmann family tree, Shyanne and I had the answer. And it was right before my eyes. In all my initial research about Leanora back in the fall of 2014, I’d never thought to search for information about her husband, only about Leanora herself. The answer lay with her husband.

As Shyanne had said, Leanora was married to a man named Albert Morreau. And although there’d been no Morreaus in my tree in November 2014 when I wrote that blog post that mentioned Leanora, there was now an Albert Morreau in my Seligmann family tree. I had entered him back in July 2015, just eight months after I’d written the post about Leonara Morreau, but I’d never made the connection.

Albert was one of three children named on the handwritten family tree Wolfgang had sent me that we believe was written by Emil Seligmann.  I had written this on the blog on July 7, 2015, describing Emil’s tree:

The next child of Jacob and Marta, Caroline, married Moses Moreau (?) of Worrstadt, and they had four children whose names are written underneath; the first I cannot decipher (maybe Markus?), but the other three are Albert, Bertha, and Alice.

Page 1 of Emil Seligmann’s handwritten tree (snip)

That is, the Albert Morreau who married Leanora Heller was my cousin—he was a descendant of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my four-times great-grandparents, through their daughter Caroline, the sister of my 3x-great-grandfather, Moritz Seligmann. Caroline had married Moses Morreau (it is correctly spelled with two Rs) of Worrstadt.  According to this tree, Albert was Caroline’s son.

I shared this information with Shyanne, but then found a biography of Albert from A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical (Samuel Peter Orth, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1910), that said that Albert’s parents were not Moses and Caroline Morreau, but in fact were named Leopold and Amelia Morreau:

Albert Morreau biography excerpt, A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical (Samuel Peter Orth, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1910), pp. 843-844

Shyanne found several other sources providing the same information. Shyanne and I were confused—was this the same Albert Morreau? And if so, who were Leopold and Amelia Morreau? Could all these sources be wrong?

Then I found UK naturalization papers for Markus Morreau, the brother of Albert, and those also stated this his parents were Leopold and Emilia Morreau. So why did Emil list Albert and Markus as the sons of Moses and Caroline on his family tree? And who was Leopold Morreau?

UK Naturalization papers for Markus Morreau
The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Duplicate Certificates of Naturalisation, Declarations of British Nationality, and Declarations of Alienage; Class: HO 334; Piece: 19
Description
Description : Piece 019: Certificate Numbers A6901 – A7300

When I looked again at the papers I’d received from Wolfgang, I realized that Wolfgang had sent a second handwritten family tree a few days after he’d sent the tree done by Emil.  On July 9, I wrote this on the blog:

This page [page seven of the second handwritten tree] is devoted to Caroline Seligmann, who married Moses Moreau from Worrstadt, another town not very far from Bingen.  Underneath are four names that the creator of this tree originally labeled as the children of Caroline and Moses, but then crossed out and wrote “grandchildren.”  The names are the same as those on the earlier tree—Markus, Albert, Bertha, and Alice.  Next to Markus it says “England,” and next to Albert it says “Amerika.” 

Second Seligmann handwritten tree, page 7

So Albert and his siblings Markus, Bertha, and Alice were not the children of Caroline Seligmann and Moses Morreau, but their grandchildren.

If the sources naming Albert’s father as Leopold Morreau were correct, that meant that Caroline and Moses Morreau had a son named Leopold. When Shyanne and I re-examined the page from the second handwritten family tree, we both concluded that one of the two names at the very bottom was Leopold Moreau. What do you think (see image directly above)? What do you think the second name at the bottom is?

UPDATE: I just figured out what the second name is! I will reveal it in a later post. 🙂

Meanwhile, Shyanne kept researching and so did I. And we ran into some incredible luck when I contacted Michael S. Phillips, a tree owner on Ancestry who generously shared with us his research on the Morreau family. Then two weeks after Shyanne’s initial comment, I received another comment about the Morreau family from a man named Paul; I emailed Paul and learned that he was related to Otto Mastbaum, who had married Albert Morreau’s sister Alice. Otto Mastbaum was Paul’s great-grandmother’s brother. And Paul filled in more gaps on the Morreau family. And I also learned more about Bertha Morreau and her husband Isidor Aschaffenburg with help from my friend in Cologne, Aaron Knappstein. And then my friend Dorothee connected me with Friedemann Hofmann, a man in Worrstadt who was able to send me the birth, death, and marriage records for the entire Morreau family from Worrstadt.

In subsequent posts, I will follow up and fill in these details and tell the full story of my Morreau cousins. But for now I just want to thank Shyanne (who I now know is my fifth cousin, once removed,), Paul, Aaron, Michael, Dorothee, and Friedemann for all their help in filling in these gaps in the Seligmann family tree.

This whole experience has been a real lesson to me. Even when you think you are “done,” there is always more to learn. And there are always incredibly generous people out there to help you do so.

 

In the Footsteps of the Ancestors by Beate Goetz: We Make the Newspaper in Bingen

In July, I received an email from my friend Beate Goetz; Beate is the woman who not only was our guide when we visited Bingen in May—she was one of the first people from Germany who helped me with my research, starting back almost three years ago. We’d had a lovely time with Beate while in Bingen, and she wrote an article about our visit for the local newspaper, Allegemeine Zeitung.  It was wonderful to relive the experience through Beate’s eyes and remember our time together.

With some help from Google Translate and Wolfgang, I’ve translated her article; my apologies to Beate for any errors, for which I take full responsibility:[1]

In the Footsteps of the Ancestors

Jewish Bingen

US-American Amy B. Cohen and Wolfgang Seligmann have Common Bingen roots.

In November 2014, Amy Cohen from Massachusetts turned to the Arbeitskreis Judische and asked for help.  She was in search of meaningful documents about her ancestor Moses, later Moritz, Seligmann, who was born in either Gau-Algesheim or Gaulsheim in the 19th century.

It soon became apparent that Moritz Seligmann was born on January 10, 1800, in Gaulsheim, the son of the merchant Jacob Seligmann and his wife Martha nee Mayer, who came from Oberingelheim. Also, his grandfather Hirsch Seligmann was born in Gaulsheim.

Moritz Seligmann was married twice: first with Eva Schoenfeld from Erbes-Buedesheim. The wedding was on February 27, 1829, in Gaulsheim.

The year before, Moritz Seligmann had wanted to transfer his place of residence to Gau-Algesheim, as Ludwig Hellriegel wrote in his little book, The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim. However, the town council rejected this and stated that “there are already a large number of Jews in the local community.” And “that it is not advisable to overpower the church with Jews.” But when Moritz Seligmann submitted a testimony to the mayor’s office of Gaulsheim of his unblemished reputation, he was allowed to become a citizen of the city.

After the death of his first wife Eva on the birth of their son Benjamin, Moritz Seligmann married her sister Babetta Schönfeld, as was customary at that time.  Bernard Seligmann, Amy Cohen’s ancestor, came from this marriage. He and his brothers Adolph and Sigismund (from the marriage with Eva) went to America around 1850. The brothers settled in Santa Fe and established the prosperous business, Seligman Brothers. They transported goods from the East Coast on the Santa Fe Trail and sold them in Santa Fe.

Since 2013 Amy Cohen has been collecting her family history research in a blog. The coincidence was that radiojournalist Wolfgang Seligmann found Amy’s blog and soon they found out that they have the same ancestor in Moritz Seligmann. While Amy’s ancestor Bernard Seligman was finding happiness in America, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August had stayed in Gau-Algesheim. His grandfather Julius Seligmann had started the Christian line in the family as he converted when he married Magdalena Kleisinger, who was Catholic. From 1939, the family lived in Bingen.

Wolfgang Seligmann had strong support in his family research from his recently deceased mother, Annlis, who tirelessly gathered the documents and mastered the old German script.

So a few weeks ago the two Seligmann descendants met when Amy Cohen came with her husband Harvey. In addition to Mainz and Gau-Algesheim, Bingen was on the travel schedule of the guests. Together we went on a tour of the town that led along the houses and stolpersteine to remember the extensive family associations of the Seligmann, Gross, and Mayer families.

Also, we visited the synagogues and the Memorial and Meeting Center of Judische Bingen in Rochusstraße and also took countless photos before the visit to the Jewish cemetery ended the tour.

Shortly after her journey, which led the couple to Koblenz, Koln, and Heidelberg, Amy Cohen wrote how impressed she was by visiting the cemetery. “The people behind the names and stories I had researched seemed to me so close and very real, and I realized how close my Seligmann relatives were to the Bingen local community.”

 

 

 

 

[1] Only one correction to the caption under the photo: Harvey’s surname is not Cohen. I kept my birth name, just to make things easier for future genealogists. 😊

Arthur “Pete” (Seligman) Scott 1938-2017

I am very sad to report that my cousin Pete passed away on July 11, 2017. Regular readers of this blog may recognize Pete’s name—his full name was Arthur George Scott, but he was born Arthur George Seligman. Pete was my father’s second cousin, and I found him several years back when I was researching my Seligman(n) family line.

My cousin Pete and one of his many much-loved dogs

Connecting with Pete was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had while researching my family history. Pete was fascinated by history and was extremely knowledgeable about the history of his hometown, Santa Fe, and about our family’s contribution to the history of that city.  Because of Pete’s extensive background and incredible generosity, I was able to learn a great deal about our American Seligman history. And I was able to share with him my delight in learning about our German ancestors and relatives. He quickly became a friend as well as a cousin.

Pete was the great-grandson of Bernard Seligman, who, along with his brothers Sigmund and Adolf, traveled the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s and helped to establish Santa Fe as an important trading post. Their store Seligman Brothers was on the main plaza in Santa Fe for close to eighty years.

Bernard Seligman

Pete’s grandfather was Arthur Seligman, the governor of New Mexico from 1931 until his death in office in 1933. I wrote extensively about Arthur Seligman on the blog, as well as about Pete’s father Otis Seligman; without Pete’s help, I would not have been able to learn and share as much as I did about the contributions the Seligmans made to American history.

Arthur Seligman (second from left) with Franklin Roosevelt and others

Pete and his dear friend Mike Lord along with several others also created and contributed to a historical website called Voces de Santa Fe. If you enter Arthur Scott or Pete Scott into the search box there, you can see some of the incredible work Pete did, researching and writing about not only his family’s history, but also the general history of Santa Fe and the region. I relied on Voces for many of my stories about the Seligmans and early Santa Fe.

Pete was very proud of his family history, as well he should have been. Pete inherited the pioneer spirit of his great-grandfather Bernard and the commitment to public service of both his great-grandfather and his grandfather and namesake Arthur Seligman. Rather than try and write a biography of Pete myself, I am including in this post the beautiful obituary written by Pete’s daughter, Terri. Thank you, Terri, for allowing me to share this.

A Life Well Lived, Loved, and Learned

Arthur George Scott (Seligman), also known as Pete and Art, aged 79, last residing in Bradenton, FL, died on July 11, 2017 at home, in his sleep due to many complications from a lifetime of Type I Diabetes.

He was born on January 27, 1938 to Doris Seligman (Gardiner) and Otis Seligman in Santa Fe, NM. He was given his stepfather’s last name of Scott in 1943 after his father passed away when Pete was just starting public school in Santa Fe.

While obtaining his BS in Civil Engineering from New Mexico State University, he married his first wife Marilyn Bicksler. After participating in ROTC and graduating from NM State University, he provided service to the US Army as a Lieutenant, giving education to many younger recruits during the late 1950’s Cold War. After providing his service to the United States, he grew his hair long and never cut it short again; he added a beard and mustache for good measure.

He acquired Type I Diabetes just out of the US Army, while beginning a lifetime career in the United States Geological Survey. Lucky to survive the diabetic coma that announced a new path in his life, Pete moved forward and never gave up.

He loved his career and work friends at USGS in Santa Fe, NM, surveying rivers and dealing with Diamondback Rattle Snakes in the desert. And at USGS in Reston, VA, he travelled and wrote hydrologic journal papers on rivers and lakes from the Clinch River Valley to Canada/US Great Lakes, and to Brazil educating on water resources. He called it “The best job in the world”. Part of that “best job” involved a lot of travel, which he relished and he learned from the people in every society, city, or country he visited.

Pete inspired all of his creativity, scientific knowledge and self-sufficiency to his children, Terri and Janice. They remember his paintings, remodeling of the house, and collecting NM historical artifacts. Terri and Janice closely followed in his footsteps of science and creativity.

Pete and Bonnie on their wedding day

In 1980, while living in Reston, VA he met and married his current, devoted, and loving wife, Bonnie Sharpless Scott. Their marriage was 37 years strong. They spent many exciting and tumultuous times, helping to raise two teenagers, travelling, working, playing, and loving. Bonnie, a professional hairdresser, always took care of trimming Pete’s hair and beard to ultimate perfection. Now, that’s true love. Their travels were magical from the Galapagos Islands seeing Darwin’s creatures, to Africa viewing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, and hanging in Jamaica getting dreadlocks, and onto Thailand appreciating the majesty of nature, then sailing in the Caribbean, as well as a Brazilian cruise up the Amazon River.

Pete leaves behind many people, including his two daughters, Terri and Janice; Janice and husband Matthew’s children, Alexander and Wesley; Terri and husband Jeffrey’s children, Joshua and Nicholas; his niece, Jhette Diamond; and most significantly, his wife, Bonnie. In addition, Pete leaves behind very favored pets, including dogs: Koda II, Sunny, and Tipper, plus birds: Bubba, Tico, and Cisco. And very importantly, he leaves behind a legacy and brilliant history with many extended family and friends.

Type I Diabetes was a major obstacle in Pete’s life, as well as his family’s lives. He kept all his limbs, but lost most of his eyesight, most of the use of his hands, and his legs were very painful and eventually lost function, at which point he had to accept a wheel chair, all due to Diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, he never gave up hope and learning. His last days were spent with Bonnie making cigar box guitars, and learning to play slide guitar blues.

If you would like to help his family heal from the loss of Pete, please learn everything you can about Type I Diabetes and feel free to make a donation to the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org) or your local chapter of The Lighthouse for the Blind. We only ask this, in Pete’s name and memory, so that young people who have no choice and acquire this disease can live better and longer lives than Pete was allowed.

I will miss Pete very much; although we had long ago finished our collaboration on the family history, we had stayed in touch. In March, 2016, while in Florida, Harvey and I traveled to Bradenton, Florida, and had a very enjoyable and interesting evening with Pete and his beloved wife Bonnie.  We met their dogs and parrots and shared stories about our lives and our history. I feel so very fortunate that we were able to spend that time together. Here is a photo I took when we were together.

Pete and Bonnie when we visited in March 2016

My heart goes out to Pete’s family—his wife Bonnie, his daughters Terri and Janice, and his grandchildren.  May his memory be a blessing for his family and for all of us who knew him.

Gau-Algesheim and Bingen: My Seligmann Family

Mural in parking lot—it says We Love Gau-Algesheim

On our second night in Germany (May 3), we had a truly joyful and unforgettable experience: dinner with Wolfgang and his family—his wife Bärbel and their twelve year old daughter Milena.  We met in the small town of Schwabenheim, located about halfway between Bingen, where we were staying, and Undenheim, where Wolfgang and his family live.  I could not remember the name of the restaurant, but fortunately I was able to WhatsApp with Milena who told me it was zum Engel.  The atmosphere was perfect—an old stone building divided into smaller rooms with just a few tables. It was a good thing that for much of the time we had our room to ourselves because there was much laughter throughout our meal.

All three Seligmanns understand English, but I wanted to practice my German.  So we switched back and forth, often with many questions about which word to use (on my part) and some inevitable misunderstandings based on use of the incorrect word (again, on my part). It could not have been a more enjoyable and relaxing evening—remarkable given that I’d never met Milena or Bärbel before and had only met Wolfgang the day before. The food was also excellent—salmon, potatoes, and my first experience with the white asparagus that is so popular in Germany—“spargel.” Es war lecker, as they say.  When Wolfgang asked at the end of the evening whether we wanted to have dinner with them all the next night, there was no hesitation.  “Of course,” we said.  (I think the German equivalent expression is “genau”—a word we heard over and over when we listed to Germans converse with each other.)

The following day Wolfgang, Harvey, and I traveled to Gau-Algesheim, the birthplace of my great-great-grandfather, Bernard Seligman, and of his younger brother August Seligmann, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather. But first Wolfgang took us to see the Rochus Chapel outside of Bingen where his grandparents and father and uncle hid during the bombing of Bingen during World War II. It is lovely church perched high above Bingen surrounded by trees and views of the valley and of the Rhine.  It was easy to see how this must have been a peaceful sanctuary for Wolfgang’s family and others during the bombing.

View from Rochuskappelle

Rochus Chapel

Inside Rochus Chapel

View of the Rhine from Rochus Chapel

Parklike grounds around Rochus Chapel

In some ways the survival of Wolfgang’s grandfather, father, and uncle is a miracle. Julius Seligmann was born Jewish, but converted when he married Magdalena Kleisinger, who was Catholic.  Their sons, Walter and Herbert, were raised as Catholics.  But in Nazi doctrine, that should not have mattered.  Julius had “Jewish blood,” and so did his sons.  Many of those with Jewish ancestors who converted or who were raised as Christians were not spared from death by the Nazis.

When I asked Wolfgang why he thought his grandfather, father, and uncle survived, he said that his mother always said that the Bingen Nazis were stupid. Or that perhaps the police in Bingen somehow provided protection. As I wrote earlier, Wolfgang’s father Walter did forced labor on the Siegfried Line during the war and there were restrictions placed on the men in terms of their occupations, but they were not deported or tortured.  I am thankful for that; otherwise, my dear cousins Wolfgang, Bärbel, and Milena would not be part of my life.

After leaving Rochus Chapel, we drove the short distance to Gau-Algesheim where we were to meet Dorothee Lottmann-Kaeseler, another German dedicated to preserving and honoring the history of the Jews in Germany.  Dorothee and I had connected several years back through JewishGen.org when I was searching for information about Gau-Algesheim.  She had worked on a cemetery restoration project with Walter Nathan, a man whose father’s roots were in Gau-Algesheim; Walter and his family had escaped to the US in 1936.  Dorothee and I have been exchanging information through email for several years—going far beyond my initial inquiries about Gau-Algesheim, and she is a regular reader and frequent commenter on my blog.  I was very much looking forward to meeting this friend in person, and she is terrific—outgoing, energetic, interesting, smart, and very insightful.

Dorothee

But it took some chasing to catch her! We drove up the road below the cemetery, and Wolfgang spotted what he believed was her car up on the hill near the cemetery gate.  We got out of the car and clambered up the hill only to see that Dorothee’s car had disappeared.  (We were a few minutes late arriving.) So we ran back down the hill, got in Wolfgang’s car, and raced back down the road where we again spotted Dorothee’s car.  She had driven back down, thinking we might have missed her.  It was like a scene out of a bad romantic comedy!

Anyway, after introductions were made and hugs exchanged, we all drove back up to the cemetery gate. Dorothee was accompanied by a Gau-Algesheim resident named Manfred Wantzen, who had the key to the cemetery.  But before we entered, Dorothee reminded us that in fact there were very few stones in the cemetery.  This was not an act of Nazi destruction; this was an act of stupidity on the part of a man in the 1983 who may have had good intentions. He thought the cemetery needed to be cleaned up and asked permission of the Jewish community in Mainz (which oversees the cemetery).  They agreed without asking what he planned to do.  The man then proceeded to remove the stones so he could cut the grass.  Some he placed against the cemetery wall, but others were carted away and lost forever.

The Gau-Algesheim cemetery—with stones removed.

Dorothee, Wolfgang, and Manfred Wantzen

View of Gau-Algesheim from the cemetery gate

When Dorothee and Walter Nathan worked to preserve what was left of the cemetery, several plaques and markers were placed on the wall outside and inside the cemetery, one to commemorate those who were killed in the Holocaust and others to honor the memory of those who were buried in the cemetery but whose stones were no longer there.

Unfortunately, there were no stones to be found for my 3-x great-grandparents, Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld, who were undoubtedly buried in that cemetery.  There were likely many other relatives buried there, including Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann, but the only family member whose stone survived is that of Rosa Bergmann Seligmann, August’s wife and Wolfgang’s great-grandmother.  But even that discovery was bittersweet as her stone had been vandalized several years ago by some local teenagers. Wolfgang and I each placed a stone on her grave to mark that we had been there and to honor her and all the other Seligmanns buried there.

Headstone for Rosa Bergmann Seligmann, great grandmother of Wolfgang

Although I left the cemetery disappointed and somewhat disheartened, my spirits were lifted when we drove into Gau-Algesheim and I got to see this little town of 7000 people where my ancestors had once lived. I have written before about Gau-Algesheim and seen photographs, but it was an entirely different experience being there in person and imagining a young Bernard Seligmann running through the narrow streets into the main square of the town where Langstrasse and Flosserstrasse meet and where the town hall and the fountain are located.  Here is Wolfgang standing where perhaps our mutual ancestors Moritz and Babetta once stood with their children:

Wolfgang in front of town hall in Gau-Algesheim

Medieval tower topped by Gothic addition

Town hall

Dorothee had arranged for us to meet with the mayor of Gau-Algesheim, Dieter Faust.  We sat in his office where everyone but Harvey and I spoke rapid German.  I tried to understand, but it was futile.  The mayor was extremely engaging and clearly excited to have two descendants of Gau-Algesheim residents visiting, and after signing his guest book and taking photographs, we all went to lunch—in an Italian restaurant in the middle of this small German town.  And it was excellent! Somehow we all managed to converse and even managed to discuss American, French, and German politics with Dorothee and Wolfgang acting as interpreters.  It was a delightful experience.

Burgermeister Dieter Faust, Dorothee Lottman-Kaeseler, Wolfgang Seligmann, Manfred Wantzen, me, and Harvey

The mayor and me

Two proud descendants of the Seligmanns of Gau-Algesheim

Outside the restaurant where we were treated to lunch by the mayor

After lunch, Herr Wantzen and Dorothee guided us through the small town where we saw what had once been the synagogue in Gau-Algesheim.  It closed before 1932 because there was no longer a Jewish community in Gau-Algesheim. Today it is a storage shed behind someone’s house.  But the stained glass window over the door and the windows convey that this was once a house of prayer. A shul where my ancestors prayed almost 200 years ago.  It was awful to see its current condition, and I wish there was some way to create a fund to protect and restore the building before it deteriorates any further. I am hoping I can figure that out.

Plaque marking former synagogue

Former synagogue of Gau-Algesheim

We walked then along the streets where my family had once lived, saw the building where Wolfgang’s grandfather Julius once had a shop, and the street where my great-great-grandfather Bernard and his siblings were born.  It was surreal.  And emotionally exhausting.

Building where Julius Seligmann once had a wine shop

Maybe our ancestors once lived in this grand half-timber house on Flosserstrasse?

House built into the old wall that surrounded the town in medieval times

The castle of Gau-Algesheim

Our last stop was the Catholic Church in Gau-Algesheim, which Herr Wantzen was very excited to show us.  It was beautiful—far larger and more elaborate than one might expect in such a small town.  And a striking contrast to the size and condition of the abandoned synagogue.

Catholic church in Gau-Algesheim

We said goodbye to Dorothee and Herr Wantzen and returned to our hotel for a rest, and then at 6, Wolfgang picked up us again for dinner with his family in Bingen. We went to another very good restaurant, Alten Wache, and again had a wonderful time.

Bärbel, Milena, and Wolfgang—my dear cousins

After dinner we all climbed up the many steps to the Burg Klopp, the medieval castle that sits at the top of the hill overlooking  Bingen. As the sun began to set, the views were awe-inspiring. But I was already starting to feel emotional about saying goodbye to my wonderful cousins, Wolfgang, Bärbel, and Milena.  When Milena said to me in her perfect English that she was going to miss me, my eyes filled with tears.

Some new friends along with our new cousins. 🙂

Milena and a photographing tourist

View as we climb up to Burg Klopp

It was very hard to say goodbye, but I know that I will see my Seligmann cousins again—somewhere, sometime.  And until then, we have WhatsApp, email, and all our wonderful memories.  Auf wiedersehen, Wolfgang, Bärbel, Milena—and Bingen, Gau-Algesheim, and Mainz.  It was time to move on the next step of our journey.

Gau-Algesheim

 

 

 

Bingen: The Early Home and the Last Home in Germany for Many in the Seligmann Family


After lunch in Mainz on May 3, Wolfgang drove us to Bingen, where we were scheduled to meet Beate Goetz.  Beate, who volunteers at the Arbeitskreis Judische in Bingen, is one of the many German researchers who have helped me with my research.  Over the last two years she has sent  many records of our Seligmann relatives from the Bingen region, and she has been extremely helpful so I was looking forward to meeting her.  She had volunteered to show us around Bingen.  It was wonderful to meet her and spend time with her; she is one of the many dedicated people working to preserve the Jewish history of Germany.

Beate Goetz, Wolfgang, and me

In researching my Seligmann family, I had learned that my 4x-great-grandfather Jacob Seligmann and my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann were both born in Gaulsheim, a village that is now a part of Bingen.  I had wanted to see Gaulsheim, but Beate assured me that there was really nothing to see as all the old houses were gone.  Now it is just a residential area outside the main center of Bingen. So we focused instead on the center of the city itself.

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Mainz,+Germany/Bingen,+Germany/@49.9832962,7.93582,11z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x47bd912e33df1379:0x422d4d510db1ba0!2m2!1d8.2472526!2d49.9928617!1m5!1m1!1s0x47bdefacf3e6e303:0x422d4d510db4180!2m2!1d7.904596!2d49.9667396!3e0

Bingen is located at the junction of two rivers—the Rhine and the Nahe.  It is a small city; today its population is about 25,000 people.  Our hotel, the Roemerhof, overlooked the Nahe river (which we could see if we peered between two buildings outside our window).  While walking along the river, we saw ducks swimming along.  The region is known for wine-making, and we could see vineyards in the hills surrounding the city.

There is evidence that Bingen was settled as early as Roman times, and its location gave it strategic importance as a gateway to the Rhine Valley region.  There was a Jewish community in Bingen at least as early as the 12th century. Although the Jews were expelled from Bingen in both the late 12th century and the 16th century, they returned and resettled.  Jews worked as money lenders in the earliest times, but in later times, Jews like my own relatives were merchants and wine traders. In 1933 there were 465 Jews living in Bingen. Half left by 1939, and those who remained were deported. Only four returned. Today there is a small number of Jews from Russia living in Bingen, but no real synagogue or formal Jewish community.

Jews being deported from Bingen. Courtesy of the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen.

Bingen suffered extensive damage by Allied bombing during the war, and parts of the the city today are not particularly pretty, although there are still lovely winding streets and open squares throughout the city, some lined with older buildings and homes.  Many of the buildings, however, are post-war concrete construction that do not have much aesthetic appeal.

Catholic Church in Bingen

Beate took us to see two former synagogue buildings.  The first had been closed by the Jewish community itself in 1905 because the community, numbering at that time about 700 people, needed a larger space.  Today it is used as a youth center.

Old synagogue in Bingen

The second synagogue, which opened in 1905, was once quite a grand building. Here are some photographs from the Arbeitskreis Judsiche Bingen of what it looked like before 1938 as well as a model showing what the exterior looked like:

Courtesy of the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen.

Courtesy of the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen.

Courtesy of the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen.

Like so many synagogues across Germany, it was partially destroyed by fire in November, 1938, on Kristallnacht. After the war the building was sold, as there was no longer a Jewish community that needed it. Most of the building was taken down, but part remains.  Today part of it houses the Arbeitskreis Judische and provides a meeting space for the Russian Jews who live in Bingen.

1905 Bingen synagogue

Beate also took us to several homes where some of our Seligmann cousins had once lived.  We saw the house that had belonged to Bernhard Gross and his wife, Bertha Seligmann.  Bertha was my first cousin, four times removed. Her grandparents were Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my 4x-great-grandparents; her mother, Martha Seligmann, was the sister of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather. Bertha and Bernard died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their own home in 1901, as I wrote about here.

Home of Bertha Seligmann and Bernhard Gross

We also saw the former home of Bertha and Bernard’s daughter Mathilde Gross and her husband Marx Mayer.  Mathilde is the cousin whose memoir inspired me to start learning German. (I still am not fluent enough to read it with much ease, however.) Her husband Marx died in 1934, but Mathilde and all their children emigrated from Germany in the 1930s and were able to survive the war.

House of Marx Mayer and Mathilde Gross

As you might imagine, seeing these two stately and large homes made me realize how successful the family had been and thus how much they had lost when they left Germany.

We also saw a number of stolpersteine, including these three for the family of Karl Gross, who was Mathilde Gross Mayer’s brother. Karl Gross, his wife Agnes Neuberger, and their daughter Bertha Gross were all killed in the Holocaust.  Karl was was my second cousin, three times removed. His grandparents, Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, were my 4x great-grandparents. I wrote about the Gross family here.

Stolpersteins for Karl Gross and his family

Finally, Beate pointed out to us the location of the former shoe store owned by the family of Joseph Wiener.  Joseph Wiener married my cousin Anna Winter, daughter of Samuel Oskar Wiener and Rosina Laura Seligmann.  Rosina was the daughter of Hyronimus Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman.  Rosina was thus also the sister of Johanna Seligmann Bielefeld, whose house in Mainz I’d seen the day before.  Rosina and her husband were both murdered in the Holocaust; their only son had been killed serving Germany in World War I.  Anna and Joseph survived and immigrated to the US in 1938.  Their daughters, Doris and Lotte, wrote the moving memoirs I was honored to excerpt on my blog here, here, here, and here.

Thus, as we left the downtown area of Bingen to drive to the Jewish cemetery up the steep hill from the town, I had the thoughts of all these cousins in my head. The people behind the names and stories I’d researched and studied suddenly felt very close and very real. Seeing some of the additional names in the cemetery made me appreciate how deeply connected my Seligmann relatives had been to the Bingen community.

The cemetery is a large and peaceful place.  There are about a thousand headstones there in a beautiful wooded area overlooking the valley below.  It was overwhelming. I took many photographs, and I hope to be able to get some of them translated.  Here are just a few of the stones we saw for my Seligmann relatives.

Marx Mayer, husband of Mathilde Gross, granddaughter of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer, my 4x-great-grandparents:

Marx Mayer

Ferdinand Seligmann and Lambert Seligmann: brothers of Bertha Seligmann. My first cousins, four times removed.

Graves of Ferdinand Seligmann and his brother Lambert Seligmann

Hermann Seligmann, brother of Ferdinand, Lambert, and Bertha.

Headstone of Hermann Seligmann

Ludwig or Louis Seligmann, son of Isaak Seligmann and another grandson of Jacob Seligmann and Martha Mayer.  Another first cousin, four times removed.

Louis Seligmann

Wife of Louis Seligmann, Auguste Gumbel

Auguste Seligmann geb. Gumbel

Emilie Seligmann Lorch. daughter of Benjamin Seligmann and Martha Seligmann (who were first cousins).  Martha Seligmann was the sister of Moritz Seligmann, my 3x-great-grandfather. She was my 4x great-aunt.

Emilie Seligmann Lorch

There were probably many, many more of my Seligmann cousins buried in Bingen’s Jewish cemetery, but many stones were impossible to read, and the sheer volume of stones made it overwhelming to think about searching for more.  I took some additional photographs of stones that would need translating from Hebrew, but I had to accept that there was no way to find and photograph every headstone in the cemetery in the limited time we had.

By the end of our afternoon in Bingen, it was clear to me that this city had been at one time the place where most of my Seligmann relatives and ancestors had lived.  Although I had not found the gravesites or homes of any of my direct ancestors, I knew that many of my cousins had lived and died in Bingen, sadly some at the hands of the Nazis.  Bingen was the home of the earliest Seligmann ancestors I’ve found, Jacob and Martha (Mayer) Seligmann back in late 18th century, and there were Seligmann descendants still living there in the 20th century.

We would return to Bingen the following evening for dinner, but first on the following day we were to visit Gau-Algesheim, where my great-great-grandfather Bernard was born and lived until he came to America in the1840s.

First Stop on Our Trip to Germany: Mainz

We spent our first day and a half in Germany in the beautiful and ancient city of Mainz, a city with a population of about 200,000 people and a city that was once an important center for Jewish learning and culture. Our visit there created some cognitive dissonance for me as we experienced such incredible beauty and also memories of such horrific ugliness.

We flew into Frankfurt Airport on May 2 and found the train to Mainz.  Once on the train, we were not entirely sure that we’d gotten on the right train.  Despite a full year of learning German online, I could not make out one word of the train announcements.  Fortunately, a very kind man sitting across from us realized we were confused and reassured us that we were on the right train and that he would tell us when to get off.  From the start, we were favorably impressed with the people in Germany.

Our hotel, the Mainz Hilton, was right on the Rhine; it is a large American-style hotel with large rooms and all the amenities.

The Rhine

We were exhausted after the overnight flight and took a short rest before meeting Wolfgang at 1:30.  And the adrenaline kept us going. I had so anticipated meeting my cousin Wolfgang.  We had been emailing each other for over two years on a regular basis, at first mostly about family history, but as time went on more often exchanging current information—about our families, our lives, politics, German and English, and life in general.  Meeting him in person for the first time, I felt as if I must have already met him and spent time with him. The connection was immediate, and he was just as I imagined based on his emails.  A warm and open person, sensitive and kind, intelligent and perceptive.  And with a delightful sense of humor.

My cousin Wolfgang and me

Wolfgang had planned a walk through the sights closest to our hotel and then a tram tour around the city to see some of the sites that were further out. We strolled along the Rhine for a bit.  The weather was rainy and quite cool, but it did not put a damper on my spirits. We passed a sculpture reflecting the division of Germany after World War II and its reunification in 1990.

We walked past a 15th century watch tower known as the Holzturm (“wooden tower); it was destroyed by bombing in World War II but reconstructed and restored to its original appearance.

Then Wolfgang showed us the house where Johanna Seligmann and Alfred Bielefeld had lived.  Johanna was my first cousin, three times removed.  She was the daughter of Hyronimus Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman.  Alfred, her husband, was a wine merchant in Mainz.  Both were killed in the Holocaust.  They were deported to Terezin first, where Alfred died in 1945; Johanna was then sent to Auschwitz, where she was killed in 1945.  Their children, Hans and Lily, survived and lived in the United States.  I wrote about Johanna and her family here and here.

Johanna Bielefeld nee Seligmann

Bielelfed house in Mainz

Just around the corner from where the Bielefelds lived was the so-called “Jew House” where the Nazis moved Jewish families before deporting them.  Although the house itself no longer exists, this is where it was located:

We then visited a beautiful 18th century church, St. Augustine, with an elaborately decorated interior:

St Augustine church in Mainz

Perhaps my favorite spot in Mainz was the Kirschgarten—a small square framed by several half-timber houses, some now restaurants.  This little square captured exactly what I expected an old German city or town to look like—something out of Hansel and Gretel or some other fairy tale. The oldest house in Mainz is located in the Kirschgarten:

Kirschgarten in Mainz

Everywhere we turned there were beautiful half-timber buildings, sometimes right next to a post-war building.

We then visited the Dom, or cathedral, a large Romanesque sandstone structure located on the main market square in Mainz. The cathedral’s oldest sections are a thousand years old with later additions over the years.  It was damaged by bombing in World War II, but restored afterwards.  The cloister is a peaceful place for contemplation, and the high vaulted ceiling in the main part of the cathedral forces you to look upwards.  It is an impressive and inspiring building.

Mainz Marktplatz

Cloister at the cathedral in Mainz

At this point we caught the little tram that took us on a tour around other parts of the city, passing the Rathaus (town hall), the Schloss (a palace more than a castle), the new synagogue, and the building where the Gestapo was housed during World War II. I couldn’t get any photos of these sites as we were moving too fast, but I was glad to be seated and not walking at that point. I asked Wolfgang if we could come back the next day to see the synagogue.

As I wrote here, our first stop on Wednesday was our visit with Wolfgang’s mother Annlis, a time I will never forget.

Then we continued our tour of Mainz.  We passed the location where Fritz/Fred Michel once owned a store.  Fred Michel was the son of Franzeska Seligmann and the grandson of August Seligmann, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather and another brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard. Fred and his wife Ilse came to the US in the 1930s and settled in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  I wrote about Fred, his mother, and his family here.

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Location of Fred Michel’s store in Mainz

We then walked up the steep hill to St. Stephen’s church, where there are a number of windows designed by Marc Chagall.  The contrast between the thousand year old medieval structure and the gorgeous blue Chagall windows is striking. Like so many other buildings in Mainz, this church was damaged by bombing during World War II.  According to Wikipedia, the priest at St. Stephens, Monsignor Klaus Mayer, was a friend of Marc Chagall and approached him in the 1970s to design new windows. This is the only church in Germany for which Chagall designed windows, and he saw it as a way of expressing his hope for peace between Christians and Jews.  To see the work of a Jewish artist and his depictions of figures from the Jewish bible inside a medieval Catholic church was very moving.

St Stephen’s church in Mainz with Chagall windows

We then walked back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and Wolfgang drove us to see the new synagogue.  I knew before coming that Mainz had a long and very important history as a Jewish community. According to several sources, Mainz had a Jewish community at least as early as the tenth century. Rabbi Gershom ben Judah, known as “the light of the diaspora,” was an early important leader of the Mainz Jewish community, and his codification of Jewish law was accepted in many other communities in Europe as well.

The Jews, however, were expelled from the city in the eleventh century; they returned later, but then a thousand were killed during the first Crusade during the twelfth century.  Later, many died from the Black Death and from persecution. For several centuries there was not much of a Jewish community in Mainz. The community began to grow again in the 18th and 19th centuries. Synagogues were constructed, and Jews for some time lived in peace in the community. By 1900, there were 3000 Jews living in Mainz, according to JewishGen.org

On November 9, 1938, the Mainz synagogues were attacked as part of Kristallnacht and burnt and in some cases destroyed; there were over 200 synagogues at that time in Mainz, including the largest synagogue, Neue Synagogue, which was completely destroyed. Most of the Jews who remained in Mainz, including my Bielefeld cousins, were eventually deported and killed.

But today there is hope.  A new synagogue was built on the site of the former Neue Synagogue in 2010, and it is an imposing structure.  As this article describes, it was consider a symbol of hope for the revival of Jewish life in Germany. Outside the synagogue stand pillars from the original synagogue, a permanent reminder of what had existed and what was destroyed. The city now has about a thousand Jews who are affiliated with the synagogue as well as many others who are not.

The website of Manuel Herz, the architect who designed the new synagogue, provides a great deal of information about the history and about the reasons for the choices made in naming and designing this new building.  The synagogue is called Meor Hagolah, which means “Light of the Diaspora,” the name used to refer to Gershom ben Judah because of his wisdom and his broad-reaching influence on the practice of Judaism. The Hebrew words on the door to the synagogue are translated as “Light of the Diaspora Synagogue Mainz.”

Meor Hagodah Synagogue Mainz

The building’s shape is supposed to evoke the Hebrew word Kedushah, meaning holiness and referring to one of the sections of the Amidah prayer. I must admit I could not see the letters no matter where I stood outside the building, but I like the concept. The building overall is quite imposing and, in my opinion, not very welcoming.  It looks more like a fortress than a house of prayer.  Maybe that is in part the point: that this is a safe place that will not be destroyed again.

We stopped at the historic Mainz cemetery on our way out of town.  I have no known family members there, and we could not go inside, but the age and number of the gravestones there are another reminder that there was once a large and important Jewish community there.

Mainz Jewish cemetery

Mainz is truly a beautiful city, and despite all the damage inflicted during the war, it retains its charm, its character, and its architectural beauty. It is hard to imagine, amidst all that beauty and all those churches, how the Jewish community that lived there so long could have been destroyed.  But it is also important to look forward. I left the city feeling hopeful, knowing that a new synagogue and a growing new Jewish community exist in the city of Mainz.

 

 

Annlis Schäfer Seligmann 1924-2017

We have returned from our trip to Germany, and I have many things to share about the experience.  It was a trip filled with many joyous moments as well as many sad and heartbreaking moments.  One of the greatest joys and definitely the saddest moment involved Annlis Seligmann, mother of my dear cousin Wolfgang.

Annlis and Wolfgang

When Wolfgang found my blog almost two and half years ago, it was the result of a family research project he was sharing with his mother.  Annlis was not born a Seligmann; she was born Annlis Schäfer on April 12, 1924.  But in 1965 she married Wolfgang’s father Walter Seligmann, who died in 1993, and she was fascinated with the history of his family.  When the Seligmann family discovered the “magic suitcase” that had belonged to Walter’s brother Herbert, Annlis and Wolfgang began to search through the documents to learn more about the Seligmann family history.  Because Wolfgang could not read the old German script, Annlis had to decipher many of the old records and documents for him.

At some point in this process, Wolfgang discovered my blog, and together the three of us—Annlis, Wolfgang, and I—all worked together to find many of the missing pieces of the Seligmann family.  We were able to figure out how many of the people named in those documents were related to us all.  Without their help, I would not have found many of the Seligmanns who died in the Holocaust or who, like my cousins Lotte Wiener Furst and Fred Michel, were able to escape Germany before it was too late.

So when I was planning my trip to Germany, one of my priorities was to meet not only Wolfgang, his wife Bärbel, and daughter Milena, but also his mother Annlis.  We arrived in Germany on May 2, and the first thing we were scheduled to do on May 3 was meet Annlis.  We went with Wolfgang to the senior residence where she was living in Mainz (like an assisted living facility in the US) first thing that morning. Annlis did not speak English, so I was able to test my baby German.  With Wolfgang’s help, we were able to communicate.

She and Wolfgang showed me some family photographs, and I shared with her photographs of my parents, children, and grandchildren.  We looked through the magic suitcase together (there are still hundreds of letters and postcards still to be translated). Despite the language obstacles, I felt a strong connection to Annlis and was sad to say goodbye when our visit ended.

Annlis had been in declining health in recent months.  Her vision had become so poor that she could no longer read and help translate the documents, but she remained very interested in the family history and, according to Wolfgang, had been very anxious to meet me.  After our visit, she expressed to Wolfgang how happy she had been to meet me.  I was so touched and, of course, felt the same way.

So you can imagine my shock when less than ten days later while still in Germany, I received a message from Wolfgang telling me that his mother had died.  I was stunned and so sad.  And heartbroken for Wolfgang and his family.

Annlis lived a long and full life.  From Wolfgang I know that she grew up in Mainz where she also lived for the last five years of her life.  During World War II, she was working in Bingen.  In September, 1944, she witnessed the murder of an American soldier, Odis Lee Apple, whose plane had been shot down and crashed nearby.  As described here by Wolfgang himself on the website for the radio station where he works, the caretaker for the building where Annlis worked notified the people in the office that an American soldier was walking on the street outside the building.

Annlis and three of her co-workers left the building and followed Apple, whom she described as a man with a friendly face.  Then suddenly the building’s caretaker rushed out onto the street in his SA uniform and shot Apple.  He did not die right away, but was suffering terribly from the gunshot wound.  At some point someone else shot him, and he died.

Street in Bingen where Annlis worked and witnessed the murder of Odis Lee Apple

After the war, the US Army investigated Apple’s death; Annlis provided testimony, and several people were sentenced to prison.  The caretaker, however, had died not long after the shooting during a bombing attack on Bingen.

According to Wolfgang, his mother never forgot this incident and was horrified by what she had witnessed. Even though at that point the US was at war against Germany, Annlis knew it was wrong to kill someone in cold blood like that.

Tribute to Odis Lee Apple at the spot where he was shot

It was not until twenty years after the war that Annlis married Walter Seligmann in 1965.  Together they raised their son Wolfgang in a neighborhood outside of Mainz in an apartment overlooking the valley.  She lived in that apartment until five years before her death when she moved to the building where I met with her on May 3.

Annlis Seligmann lived a good and long life; she had just turned 93 a month before her death.  I feel so privileged and fortunate that I was able to be a part of her life in the last two years and especially that I was able to meet her in person, share some time with her, and give her a hug.  My heart goes out to Wolfgang, Bärbel, Milena, and the entire extended family.  May her memory be a blessing.

 

 

Mathilde’s Brothers: Wilhelm, Isidor, and Karl Gross

Mathilde Gross Mayer, my distant cousin and the author of Die Alte und Die Neue Welt, had three younger brothers in addition to her younger sister Anna about whom I wrote in my last post.  In this post, I will tell what happened to the three brothers. In order to learn a little more about them, I decided to use my little bit of German (along with a dictionary and Google Translate) to try and read some of Mathilde’s book myself, in particular Chapter 4, which is entitled “Geschwister,” or siblings.  I also relied on the family biography on the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen website  in addition to traditional genealogy sources.

Family View Report for Bertha Seligmann-page-001

Wilhelm, the third child of Bertha Seligmann and Bernhard Gross, was born on April 14, 1872, in Bingen.  He married Sophie Hirsch, who was a relative of his sister Anna’s husband, Wilhelm Lichter, and they, like Anna and her family, settled in Stuttgart. They had a son, Bernhard, born in Stuttgart in 1905; he was presumably named for his grandfather Bernhard, who had died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 1901.  According to Mathilde’s book (pp. 48-50), Wilhelm suffered from mental illness and was institutionalized for many years, dying in a sanatorium in Wurttemberg in 1928.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Wilhelm’s widow Sophie  and son Bernhard Gross immigrated to Rio de Janeiros, Brazil, where Bernhard became a very successful and well-known physicist. He was appointed to the staff of the National Institute of Technology in Rio and eventually became the director.  He also served on various scientific committees of the United Nations and traveled all over the world serving on those committees; later, he was the director of the Brazilian National Commission of Nuclear Energy.  You can read more about his life and career here and here and here.  He died at age 97 in 2002 in Brazil.

Mathilde’s second brother Isidor, whom I’ve mentioned before for his role as a contributor to Mathilde’s book, was born on September 25, 1873, in Bingen.  He married Klara Emrich, and like his sister and her husband, Anna (Gross) and Wilhelm Lichter, Isidor and Klara settled in Stuttgart where Isidor worked as a banker. Isidor and Klara had one child born in 1903 and presumably also named for his grandfather; his name was Hans Bernard Gross.  When Wilhelm’s widow and son, Sophie and Bernard Gross, left for Brazil in 1933, they took Isidor’s son Hans with them as well, according to the Arbeitskreis Judische-Bingen website.  Hans was at that time a law student.

Isidor and Klara were not yet ready to leave Germany in 1933.  As indicated by a September, 1937 ship manifest, Isidor and Klara sailed from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Southampton, England; the manifest shows that their last permanent residence was in Germany and that they were going to stay at a hotel in London, but that their “country of intended future permanent residence” was a foreign country outside of the United Kingdom.  (It looks like the far right column says “..o de Jan,” so I assume that Isidor and Klara had been visiting Hans in Rio.)

Isidor and Klara (Emrich) Gross on 1937 ship manifest The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1138; Item: 48

Isidor and Klara (Emrich) Gross on 1937 ship manifest
The National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Board of Trade: Commercial and Statistical Department and successors: Inwards Passenger Lists.; Class: BT26; Piece: 1138; Item: 48

The immigration cards below indicate that Isidor and Klara moved to Brazil in June 1939:

isidor-gross-brazil-immigration-card-from-famsearch-p-1

Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-22436-27549-86?cc=1932363 : 10 November 2014), Group 4 > 004914427 > image 44 of 203; Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).

isidor-gross-brazil-immigration-card-p-2

Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-22436-27549-86?cc=1932363 : 10 November 2014), Group 4 > 004914427 > image 44 of 203; Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro).

klara-emrich-gross-brazil-immigration-card-from-family-search

Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12579-62878-12?cc=1932363 : 10 November 2014), Group 1 > 004551542 > image 34 of 203; Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro)

klara-emrich-gross-brazil-immigration-card-from-family-search-p-2

Brasil, Cartões de Imigração, 1900-1965,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12579-62878-12?cc=1932363 : 10 November 2014), Group 1 > 004551542 > image 34 of 203; Arquivo Nacional, Rio de Janeiro (National Archives, Rio de Janeiro)

They both lived the rest of their lives in Brazil, as did their son Hans.  Isidor died and is buried in Petropolis in 1950; Klara is also buried there; she died in 1969.  Hans died in Rio de Janeiro in 1979.

(Thank you to Andre Convers of the LatAmSIG on JewishGen.org for finding the information about Klara and Isidor’s deaths and burial for me; they are listed in Egon and Frieda Wolff’s book, Sepulturas de Israelitas Il, p.100; Sophie Gross, widow of Wilhelm Gross, is listed on p. 101 and also buried in Petropolis, but her date of death says “19.5” so I assume it was partially illegible. There are also several people named Emrich on p. 100, presumably relatives of Klara Emrich Gross.)

Egon and Frieda Wolf, Sepulturas de Israelitas II, p. 100 (Petropolis Municipal Cemetery)

Egon and Frieda Wolf, Sepulturas de Israelitas II, p. 100 (Petropolis Municipal Cemetery)

cemetery-information-for-sophie-gross

Egon and Frieda Wolf, Sepulturas de Israelitas II, p. 101 (Petropolis Municipal Cemetery)

Unfortunately, the youngest child and third son of Bertha Seligmann and Bernhard Gross was not as fortunate as his older brother Isidor or his sister Mathilde.  Karl Gross was born on March 6, 1876, in Bingen, Germany.  According to the Arbeitskreis Judische Bingen page dedicated to Karl, he married Agnes Neuberger, and they had two daughters.  Bertha was born in 1906 and presumably named for Karl’s mother, Bertha Seligmann Gross, who had died with her husband in 1901 from carbon monoxide poisoning; sadly, Bertha suffered brain damage at birth and required special care.

A second daughter, Ilse, was born in 1921, after Karl returned from service in the Germany army during World War I. He had served from August, 1914, through the end of the war and was honored several times for his service.

After returning from the war, Karl worked in the Gross family winemaking business.  Two years Hitler’s rise to power, he and Agnes decided to send fourteen year old Ilse to the International School in Geneva, Switzerland in 1935. In 1938, when she was just seventeen, Ilse left Switzerland for England.

Karl and Agnes, however, stayed in Germany to be near their other daughter, Bertha. In December, 1940, the German Reich required that Bertha be admitted to the Israelite Hospital and Sanatorium in Bendorf-Sayn, also known as the Jacoby Institute. It had been founded almost a century before as a mental institution for Jewish patients.  Its role was altered terribly by the Nazis.

According to this website,

During the first years of National Socialism the Jacoby Institute was left in relative peace; probably as an acknowledgement of the fact that it was an important employer for Sayn and the region. ….A circular decree issued by the Ministry of the Interior on 12th December 1940 decreed that “mentally ill Jews” were only to be accommodated in Sayn because “a cohabitation of Germans and Jews is not acceptable in any length of time” (illustr. 7). The option of concentrating all the patients in one location served as preparation of their deportation. In the course of five transports (between March and November 1942) 573 people were taken to the death camps in the East.

Bertha Gross was one of those 573 people; she was deported to a concentration camp in Izbica, Poland, where she died.

Karl and Klara Gross also were killed in the Holocaust. They were sent to Theriesenstadt on July 27, 1942, where Karl worked as a stretcher-bearer until he died on February 1, 1944.  In October, 1944, Klara was deported from Theriesenstadt to Auschwitz where she was murdered.

karl-gross-and-family-stolpersteine-from-judische-bingen

Stolpersteins for Karl Gross, Agnes Gross, and Bertha Gross http://www.juedisches-bingen.de/?id=54

Their younger daughter Ilse, however, survived, and like so many in this family, she ultimately thrived. As described in her obituary, after leaving Switzerland for England in 1938, at first she worked as an unpaid mother’s helper.  After England was at war with Germany, however, Ilse, along with many other Jewish refugees from the Nazis, was imprisoned as an “enemy alien” in an internment camp on the Isle of Man, according to her obituary. 

Ilse, who had been writing poetry in German since she was a teenager, began writing short stories in English while in the camp and continued her writing after she was released in 1941.  In 1948, she married Kit Barker, a British artist.  Ilse began writing under the pseudonym Kathrine Talbot and published a number of well-regarded works, including three novels, many articles, and short stories.  She died in 2006, and her obituary in The Guardian includes an extensive description not only of her life but of her work.  “Ilse Barker,” The Guardian (June 2, 2006), located here.

Thus, Mathilde Gross Mayer lost both her sister Anna and her brother Karl in the Holocaust, as well as their spouses, Wilhelm Richter and Klara Emrich, respectively; her niece Bertha also was a victim of the Nazis.  Her brother Wilhelm had died years before, so Mathilde’s only surviving sibling after 1944 was her brother Isidor, who had immigrated to Brazil along with his wife and son and Wilhelm’s widow and son and thus lived a continent away from where Mathilde was in New Rochelle, New York.

Although Mathilde was fortunate that all of her children and grandchildren and almost all her nieces and nephews had survived the Holocaust, there is no overstating the tragedy she endured—from the loss of her parents in 1901, the loss of her husband in 1934, the uprooting of her children, grandchildren, and herself from their homeland, and the cruel deaths of a number of her family members at the hands of the Nazis.

Perhaps now you can better understand why I want to be able to read her book and get a feel for the real person who endured so much and lived so long.